Student debt is a $1.2 trillion market in the US and in need of a fix. As tuitions continue to inflate, students are graduating with increasing amounts of debt — 90% of which the federal government and its agencies own. 1 of 7 recent graduates leaves school saddled with at least $29,000 in debt.
While few fintech startups will actually underwrite a student loan, they’re more than happy to refinance them. A handful of startups are approaching the student debt market with different approaches and solutions. The market is large and competitive and there’s been billions of dollars of investments made here because of the market’s potential for growth.
Here are the top fintech startups addressing the student lending market:
The largest player in the space right now is arguably Social Finance, better known as SoFi. While the company has extended its lending portfolio to include things like mortgages and personal loans, its roots are in helping students refinance existing student loans.
The firm has extended $9 billion in total loans to date and claims to save its members nearly $19,000 on average when they refinance student loans. The company has taken a community-building approach to increasing its sphere of influence, sponsoring local social events to help break taboos around money. SoFi is based in San Francisco and has raised a whopping $1.37 billion to date, with its most recent round tallying $1 billion and lead by SoftBank.
Another top player in the space, CommonBond, was founded by three grad students who were sick of the way the student loan industry operates. The NYC-based startup offers three flavors of loans: a refinancing product, a loan designed for parents of students, and a product for MBA students.
The company has raised more than $40 million from investors and almost $300 million in debt financing.
This student lender offers a 2 minute submission process for students to consolidate and refinance their debt. The SF-based millennial lender has a loan personalization tool it calls Precision Pricing. Borrowers can personalize their loan’s interest rate to their exact loan terms, which the company claims helps to save them money over the life of the loan.
The company raised just about $100 million from investors, $75 million which came in the latest round from Battery Ventures. Earnest has made it pretty clear it intends to broaden its product portfolio to approximate a next-generation bank.
A multi-lender marketplace, users go to Credible to compare offers from various student lenders. The company has attracted over $14 million in venture capital and markets the fact that it’s helped 132,240 people save on average over $13,000 on their student debt. Borrowers compare loan options from top lenders both for primary student loans as well as for refinancing existing loans.
LendKey is a bit of a different animal compared to the other top fintech startups in the student loan market. LendKey is a technology provider that brings online and marketplace lending functionality to incumbent financial institutions. Using the firm’s technology, community banks and credit unions can bring their offline businesses to the internet. LendKey offers its professional clients both refinancing, as well as student loan origination tools.
The cloud-based platform has raised nearly $20 million in equity and $8 million in debt.One of the cofounders, Vince Passione, used to be CTO for Citi’s US retail bank.
CollegeAve may be one of the most focused online student lenders, with four products dedicated to student loans. Current students and recent grads can use CollegeAve to originate and refinance student loans. Students with as little as $5,000 in loans qualify, and interest rates for a fixed loan are often below five percent.
TheWilmington, Delaware-based lender raised $20 million early in 2016.
Photo credit: CarbonNYC [in SF!] via Visualhunt / CC BY